Reforming state government; Helping prospective police officers

Package of government reform bills filed
With the start of the new General Assembly, House Republicans have introduced a package of bills and constitutional amendments intended to fix our broken state government system. The proposed reforms are called the Get Government Back on Track package.

The lead sponsor of the bills is Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon. The reform package has six key parts. First, House Bill 787 would create a bipartisan Joint Committee of the General Assembly on Rules and Operations – a panel of legislators which would review and recommend procedures, rules and structures of the General Assembly to make it run more efficiently and fairly. House Bill 789 establishes a Board of Repealers which would review Illinois’ laws and look for ways to get rid of laws that have become outdated or which conflict with other laws. Instead of just adding more and more laws to the books, this would give us a way to get rid of those we no longer need.

Other proposed reforms include House Bill 3119 which would grant the Governor “fast-track” authority to call for a vote on a certain bill instead of having it languish without ever being considered. House Bill 495 splits up Illinois’ presidential electoral votes by congressional district instead of winner-take-all so that the state might once again garner some attention in future contests. Lastly, there are two Constitutional amendments: HJRCA 19 would make the existing balanced budget requirement enforceable by requiring that the Comptroller certify that the budget is truly balanced, while HJRCA 25 saves taxpayers millions by combining the offices of Comptroller and Treasurer.

Each of these bills will now begin the process of working their way through committee.

Legislation to help prospective police officers passes House
On Wednesday, I presented legislation to the House which would allow local police departments to choose from a larger pool of applicants when hiring officers. Current law requires that a police applicant have an associate’s degree in order to be hired. However, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university can complete the same amount of coursework (60 hours) without obtaining an associate’s degree. House Bill 305 changes the law to allow departments to consider applicants who have completed 60 hours toward a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

I want to thank Chief Jim Wofford of the Pontiac Police Department for bringing this matter to my attention and suggesting this change. The bill passed the House 110-0 and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

Marking Statehood Day
While committees and negotiators get to work on the long, slow process of putting together a budget and negotiating other major legislation, the House last week took on some smaller matters. As the state’s Bicentennial approaches next year, legislators took action to make a change to the state seal which better reflects Illinois’ history.

The rim of the state seal carries the date August 26, 1818. However, Illinois’ true birthday is December 3, 1818, the date that Illinois became the 21st state. House Bill 479 instructs the Secretary of State, who is the keeper of the state seal, to change the date on the seal. The seal is the symbol which is used to formally recognize laws and other official documents of the state of Illinois. This change will not require changes to any item which already carries the existing state seal, which has not been updated since 1867.

Another change relating to Illinois’ history came in House Bill 489, which sets December 3 as a commemorative date for Illinois Statehood Day. A commemorative date is different from a holiday in that it recognizes an event without closing schools or state offices. These changes are meant to be part of the preparation for Illinois’s Bicentennial on December 3, 2018.  The House approved both Bicentennial bills on February 16. They now go over to the Senate for consideration.

New vaccination rules clear important hurdle
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan committee of the General Assembly which reviews rules proposed by state agencies concluded a two-month discussion and review of new vaccination rules from the Department of Public Health (IDPH) by approving the agency’s proposal.

The new requirements will be enforced when most children enroll in child care, public or private school. Parents will be required to present an immunization certificate or a medical form when the child enrolls. IDPH is authorized to set vaccination requirements as part of its mission to protect Illinois public health.

Vaccination requirements have become much more complex over the past thirty years. Many older Illinoisans only received shots for measles and polio. Since then, that simple progression has been replaced by a complex schedule of immunizations. Today an extensive list of immunizations are part of a schedule of immunization windows that open and close at different times as a child grows.

The new immunization rule is based on the recommendation of nationwide public-health authorities, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which attempt to optimize the series of immunizations that most children need to have. The new IDPH rules allow for a family to seek medical counsel if they have concerns. For example, a doctor can sign an exemption form if he or she has evidence that a child should not get a particular kind of shot or immunization. A school would then be required to accept the form as a valid substitute for certification that the child has been immunized.

Did You Know?
The original boundaries of Illinois prior to statehood did not include Chicago or most of northern Illinois. The Illinois Enabling Act, the bill granting us statehood, included the same boundaries of Illinois as in the original Northwest Ordinance of 1787: with the northern boundary at Lake Michigan’s southern tip. Territorial delegate Nathaniel Pope inserted an amendment which moved the border north by 40 miles in order to give Illinois some ports on the Great Lakes for future trade with New England and the northeast. Today, 14 counties with about 60 percent of Illinois’ population are part of this last-minute addition to the state.